Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Variations On A Theme

Though this is a recipe for a 'basic' vanilla cake, there is nothing basic about it. Sure it is easy to prepare and uses ingredients that you probably already have, but this is a flavourful and a deeply satisfying cake.
Over the years I have baked it umpteen times and each time with a slight flavor variations. This posts lists some of our favourite variations.

Here is a picture of a loaf baked by my daughter. She added grapefruit zest to the batter.

Basic Vanilla Cake - a template
(Minimally adapted from The Joy of Cooking.)
Ingredients
1 cup all purpose flour (or whole wheat pastry flour)
1 tsp baking powder
¼ tsp salt
1 stick (8 tbsp) butter, softened
1 cup sugar
3 large eggs, at room temperature
1 ½ tsp vanilla extract
2 tbsp fresh lemon juice

Method
Preheat the oven to 350F.
Grease a nine-inch round pan or a loaf pan and set it aside.
Mix together and then set aside the flour, baking powder, and salt.
In a large bowl, beat the the butter till creamy.
Add the sugar and beat on high speed for five minutes. You may occasionally need to scrap the bowl.
Beat in the eggs, one at a time.
Beat in the vanilla extract and the lemon juice.
Add the dry ingredients and stir only till combined.
Pour the batter in the pan and spread it evenly.
Bake for 25 minutes (30+ minutes for a loaf pan) or till a toothpick inserted in the center of the cake come out clean.
Oven differ and so will the baking times. Regardless, do not open the oven to test for doneness before 20 minutes.

Spiced Apple Cake: 1
To the flour mixture, add ¼ tsp each of ground cinnamon, ground cardamom, ground nutmeg, and ground allspice.
Add in one cup grated apples (Fuji, Cortland, or Golden Delicious).
Bake in a nine-inch round pan for 35mins or till a toothpick inserted in the center of the cake come out clean.

Reduce the quantity of the spices to suit your tastes; we prefer a heavily spiced apple cake.

Spiced Apple Cake:2
Replace ¼ cup of the all purpose flour with an equal quantity of oat flour.
To the flour mixture, add ¼ tsp each of ground cinnamon, ground cardamom, ground nutmeg, and ground allspice.
Add in one cup apples (Fuji, Cortland, or Golden Delicious), cubed.
Bake in a nine-inch round pan for 35mins or till a toothpick inserted in the center of the cake come out clean.

Reduce the quantity of the spices to suit your tastes; we prefer a heavily spiced apple cake.

To make the oat flour, I run regular (not quick cooking) oats thru the food processor.

Lemon Poppy Seed
To the cake batter add in 1 tbsp lemon zest (packed) and 1 tsp poppy seeds.
Bake as directed above.

Orange Walnut
To the cake batter add in 1 tbsp orange zest (packed) and 1/3 cup finely chopped roasted walnuts.
Bake as directed above.

Upside down cakes
This batter can be used to make pineapple, apple, pear, peach, or plum upside down cakes.
Grease the bottom of the pan, sprinkle a little bit of sugar (about 1 tbsp), arrange the fruit slices, pour the batter and bake for about 25-30 minutes.
Sometimes I mix in flavors that go with the fruits, such as cinnamon & nutmeg with the apples, a bit of citrus zest to go with the peaches and plums. If the fruit is flavourful, I skip any additions.

Citrus loaf
Mix 1 tbsp citrus zest into the sugar. Use the back of a spoon to rub the zest into the sugar, applying slight pressure.
Any citrus zest will work. We've tried oranges, lemon, lime, pomellos, and grapefruits.

Fruit & Nut Cake
In ½ a cup of warm apple or orange juice, add a cup of chopped nuts and dried fruits. If you let the fruits and nuts soak overnight, the flavour will be deeper but an hour of soaking time will do.
Gently fold the fruit and nut mixture in the cake batter and bake as directed above.
For a boozy version, substitute part of the juice with the spirit of choice; think Grand Marnier, rum, etc.

If you have any questions or comments, please write to me the.best.cooker@gmail.com. Thanks for stopping by.
 
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